One of the main reasons for accepting an invitation to do another house exchange in Ireland was the opportunity to play golf on some of its hundreds of parkland and links courses. While Scotland is usually considered the home of golf, the Irish are obsessed with the game which is an integral part of the country’s culture. There are many wonderful courses. The old course at Lahinch on the West Coast is one of the most memorable courses I have ever played
Our house was located on Old Golf Links Road, which was a bit odd since the nearby course was a parkland layout, not a links course. The Dundalk Golf Club, also known as the Blackrock Golf Club was founded in 1905 and has been the venue for many competitions. Not only is the course long but it was tough to play, especially since the rainy spring and summer has prevented the cutting of much of the rough.
If you want to know how rainy it has been this year, you should take a look at a red and white golf hat I purchased in the pro shop. It was so wet, much of the hat is now pink; the red striping is merging into the white body!
We arrived in Ireland just before the Irish Open was being played at Portrush, and watched some of the final day in a pub in Carlingford. Sadly, the local boys did not do well and the match was eventually won by a Welshman. I was surprised at how few North Americans were participating (John Daly was there), but it was pointed out by a local that the prize money was relatively modest when compared to what the players can earn on the PGA Tour. Also, it is quite a long trip, unless you are planning to stay for the Scottish Open and Open Championship which this year is being played in Lytham St. Anne’s, not far from Blackpool where I was born!
In addition to Dundalk, I had planned to play Seapoint and a number of other courses along the coast but it was generally too wet. However, I did play the Louth County Club in Baltray which is rated no 68 in the top 100 of the 33,000 plus golf courses in the world. I must say, I’m not sure why since it is by no means as spectacular as many other courses I have played around the world…it certainly is not due to the design of the clubhouse which really is a ‘dog’s breakfast’!
To be fair, it rained a lot the day I played and there is no cover on a links course…no trees under which to take shelter from the rain, which combined with the wind can make for a very uncomfortable day. This time I didn’t buy a hat…it wasn’t a day I want to always remember!
I did eventually make it up to Portrush but the course was fully booked with players preparing for another tournament. Furthermore, the men’s final at Wimbledon was on that day so we settled for a spot in a local pub and watched the local favourite Andy Murray hold his own for the first hour or so, before heading off for a trip along the Causeway route. By the time we reached the Giant Causeway, Federer was kissing the trophy. But here are a couple of final images of the Portrush course, rated one of the best in Ireland.